Defense Contractor’s Shameless Rules Regarding Short-Term Disability Insurance

Upon retiring, I jumped right into working for a fairly GINORMOUS American defense contractor, whose name may or may not rhyme with SCHMAYTHEON PISSILE SYSTEMS.  The paycheck was also GINORMOUS (for me and my gub’ment cheese upbringing).  That was the hook (and I tried to convince myself that the “purpose” of the job was something that could resonate with me).  I disclosed my disabilities and was brutally honest about my physical issues an needs.  They still bought this product (basically it wasn’t ME, it was my particular security clearance) and conveyed veteran-friendly empathy along the way.

Several months into the job, my manageable physical issues (for which I MUST say they did accommodate with ergonomic furniture and equipment) became less manageable.  Miserably less manageable.  I required more time away from the office for doc visits/treatments.  My boss smiled and said empathetic words, yet constantly conveyed losing patience with the increase in time away from the precious cubicle. 

The boss: Picture exactly this, but ten years older, long blonde hair, and identifying as a female.

“We know you were previously injured in the military.  We see that you are now currently feeling some recurring effects from that old injury.  We know that is negatively affecting your performance.  We want to be there for you.  Tell us how we can help.”

“Wow!  Cool, uh, thanks for lookin’ out!  My docs suggested that I take at least a few weeks off work because they had a pain management plan that they had significant confidence in.  They think it can help me.  In fact, they put all this documentation together for you guys, in case you need it to get the ball rolling on things.”

After communicating with my team (yes, team) of doctors and my job, I decided to request short-term disability leave (along with the requisite pay scale whilst on disability leave).  As I said, I diligently worked the issue through my boss, my boss’s boss (who truly understood), and those wonderfully clueless HR peeps.  Then I got the “thumbs up” from management. 

I promptly moved forward with my revamped medical treatments to improve my worsening conditions. 

“Thank you for all the information.  We will review all of the documentation and get back with you if there are any issues.”

It turns out that this process – and this “veteran-friendly” organization – were not quite as friendly as they proclaimed to be.  Though my time away from the office was approved (though my oh-so-pleasant boss was none too pleased), there seemed to be some sort of a delay with the bi-weekly compensation to be paid whilst on leave (go figure).  That delay then turned into a dead stop.

“Hey guys! Any update on the approval status?”

“So, you know you are approved for the medical leave of absence.  Disability approval, however, runs about a week or so behind this.  Good luck, we’re really pulling for ya.”

“Hey SCHMAYTHEON…  It’s been a few weeks now and I got turned down for short-term disability payments.  Can you guys help me figure this out, since you guys said everything was good-to-go before I left and began procedures?”

“Well, we feel weally, weally, bad fo you, BUT, we’re not going to pay you.”

“Uh, whaddya mean?”

“Because you were hurt on the job.”

“But these are older, pre-existing injuries and they weren’t on the job here.  I don’t want Workmen’s Comp!  You guys approved my Medical Leave of Absence and said that the disability claim – for which you all pre-read and gave me a thumbs up that all was “good-to-go.”  So, what gives?”

“Because you were hurt on the job – not our job – but on the job, so that’s not something we will pay you for.”

“But you guys KNEW about all of this stuff, as preconditions ion the hiring process.  It was all clearly documented and openly discussed.”

“Yep.  But we have a policy that is burieduhh, I mean – that says if you were previously injured in any other employment EVER and an old injury or illness creeps back up on you and makes it so you can’t work – well – we don’t have to pay.”

“But your HR peeps reviewed everything.  Managers reviewed everything… Nobody ever talked about this.  Don’t you think MAYBE I wouldn’t have requested a leave of absence and perhaps would have sought another way to deal with my disability issue and the compounding financial issue?”

“Well, you can appeal if you like?”

“Hey SCHMAYTHEON, I appealed.  Waited.  Weeks.  Still disapproved.  WTF, over?”

“Sorry, bud.”

“OK, well then you guys just screwed me out of potential short-term disability pay that I could have used to help us SQUEEZE BY while I was down and trying to climb back up.  Dinero was TIGHT, bruh.  That sucked.  Thanks for nothing.”

“You’re welcome… So, when are you coming BACK?”

End of my venting session. Thank you.

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